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Forums Designed to Ignite Interest in
Renewable Energy
Jobs and Projects

by Amy Ahrens
July 12, 2017

Organized and sponsored by Eco-Justice Collaborative, Prairie Rivers Network and The Delta Institute, area residents are invited to join local leaders and renewable energy experts to discuss how to tap into the hundreds of millions of dollars allocated each year until 2030 to build new solar, wind and energy efficiency projects in Illinois.

Registration for both events is free, but requested by event organizers to ensure there’s enough seating capacity for all guests. Attendees can view the full schedule of events and register online at https://ecojusticecollaborative.org/events or by calling Eco-Justice Co-Director Lan Richart at 217-607-1948.

Signed into law in December of last year with bipartisan support, the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) will ensure that the future of energy is bright in Illinois. FEJA caps electricity rates for individuals and businesses to keep energy affordable and will provide renewable energy to low-income families to spur economic growth through FEJA funds and private investments. For the first time in Illinois, individuals that aren’t homeowners can participate in community solar projects that provide a savings on their monthly energy bill by subscribing to a local project.

“The Future Energy Jobs Act will bring 3,000 MW of new solar and 1,350 MW of new wind on line by 2030,” said Shannon Fulton, past president of the Illinois Solar Energy Association and director of business development for StraightUp Solar. “That may not sound like much, but that’s enough solar and wind to power almost one million homes, or 20 percent of the total occupied housing units in Illinois with clean energy. And here is a key takeaway – we don’t yet have the workforce to design, market and build all the projects that are necessary to meet the goals of this legislation.”

A session on the types of jobs and training options available in the renewable energy field will be led by Aur Beck. He is a member of the Illinois Solar Energy Association and founder of Carterville-based Advanced Energy Solutions Group, Inc. Beck will present “How do I get into the solar field, and what qualifications do I need to have?” from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Jul 25th, at John A. Logan College in Carterville, Illinois, where he regularly teaches photovoltaics system design and installation. He will present the same session from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on July 26th at Southeastern Illinois College in Harrisburg, Illinois.

“We are on the cusp of an energy revolution in this state that is unlike anything we’ve experienced before, and southern Illinois residents, businesses and leaders need to start preparing now,” Beck said. He added that “while training people to install solar panels is clearly a specific skillset that is needed, the industry also requires roles in design, engineering, software development, marketing, sales and more.”

Community Solar Garden in Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Photo Courtesy of Rhiannon Fionn.

Non homeowners or renters who would like to learn about how to subscribe to a solar project should attend the sessions led by Michelle Knox, who leads a policy group for the Illinois Solar Energy Association and is the founder of WindSolarUSA, a solar energy equipment supplier based in Springfield, Illinois. She will present, “What is Community Solar and How Can I Participate?,” from 2-3:15 p.m. at John A. Logan College on July 25th and from 10-11:15 a.m on July 26th at Southeastern Illinois College.

“For the first time in Illinois, residents, businesses and other organizations will be able to subscribe to a solar project if they don’t have the option to install one on their roof or property,” Knox said. “Now, anyone can take advantage of the benefits of solar energy. We’ll discuss project size, funding models and how to work with rural electric communities and municipal utilities.”

Photo courtesy of GRID Alternatives

Erica Mackie, CEO and co-founder of GRID Alternatives, a non profit working globally to bring clean energy technology and job training to underserved communities through a network of community partners and philanthropic supporters, will partner with Shannon Fulton to lead a workshop on the Illinois Solar for All program, aimed to provide funding for low-income community solar projects and solar job training. Mackie and Fulton will present “What is Illinois Solar for All and Why is it Important” from 2-3:15 p.m. on July 25th at John A. Logan College and from 10-11:15 a.m. July 26th at Southeastern Illinois College.

“GRID Alternatives has installed over 8,700 rooftop, community solar, and multifamily solar systems, which is over 32 MW, for low-income families throughout the country, and we’ve learned a ton in the process,” Mackie said. “In our session, I’ll discuss best practices for moving programs and projects forward in low-income communities in a way that opens up access to clean energy and jobs for those who need them most.”

Both forums also include workshops for those who are interested in learning what they need to know to build a solar project from concept to build. This will include discussion of funding models and consumer protection.

The uncertainty and instability of the coal economy in southern Illinois has plagued the region for decades. These workshops are an open forum for attendees to learn how the state of Illinois is betting on a clean energy economy to restore jobs and put the state on the map as a major energy producer. According to Pam Richart, Co-Director of Eco Justice Collaborative, “We’re excited to help spread the word on how to access job training and other programs that can help hard-working families get ahead. FEJA is a wonderful bright light for the state of Illinois.”

Register Today

Registration for both events is free, but requested by event organizers to ensure there’s enough seating capacity for all guests. You can view the full schedule of events and register online at:

July 25, John A. Logan College
July 26, Southeastern Illinois College

For more information, or to register by phone, call Lan Richart, Eco-Justice Collaborative, at 217-607-1948.

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